Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The Out of the Cold Shelter housed by the Apostolic Way Church is set to open for overnight stays starting December 1. The shelter is currently only open as a warming centre.
Dan McCormick, chief administrative officer at the Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board (RRDSSAB), said he hopes this will just be a transition until a more permanent solution comes their way.
“We’re just looking forward to trying to create a network that moves people from homelessness to permanent housing and gets them the necessary support along the way,” McCormick said.
Trying to secure a more permanent solution to the homelessness problem in Fort Frances and the Rainy River District has been a front and centre issue.
About two months ago, Mayor June Caul and Coun. Andrew Hallikas sat on the homelessness committee chaired by Jamie Petrin from RRDSSAB.
They say their goal is to provide the homeless population with a program to get them into stable housing and employment, with the long-term goal of decreasing homelessness in the district.
“One thing we looked at is just doing a shelter doesn’t fix a problem,” McCormick said. “You need to do something in conjunction with treatment programs. So we have been working with other partners to try to create what we call a safe bed program which stays up to 30 days. It is a treatment program.”
McCormick said the homelessness committee is also trying to secure transition beds similar to the one in Thunder Bay that is run by the Tribal Health Centre. However, McCormick said it is not likely that the district’s entire homeless population will enter into a program because there are rules that have to be followed.
As per the capacity set by the building code and fire department, the shelter can accommodate 14 individuals per night. According to statistics done two years ago, there are 111 homeless individuals in the Rainy River District.
“Unfortunately, there will be still be some people that just either won’t participate or won’t be able to follow the rules,” McCormick said. “Those are going to be the hard to serve ones.”
It is strictly not allowed to carry or consume drugs or alcohol when in the shelter, McCormick said. There are also no guests in the building after a certain hour.
McCormick also said COVID-19 screening procedures will be in place for December 1. He said the health unit will be instrumental in trying to deal with outbreaks.
“If there is an outbreak that may mean closure and trying to bring people into more of an isolated situation, we will do what we did in the winter where we rented the Sleepy Owl,” McCormick said. “We may have to look at a similar scenario if there is an outbreak.”